I’m a 33-year-old high-achieving Black South African femme goddess who lives in Portland, Maine. Most days I feel like a delicious summer night: loud, with no particular audience in mind to show my magnificent sparkling goddess power. I make the day question its very existence, for fun. With a crown upon my head and a swirl of colors and music about me I give Maine something it has never quite seen before. Me. I am a local performance artist who tries my very best to see at least one public show a week.
About a month ago, I went to see “One Flea Spare” at the Mad Horse Theater in South Portland, Maine, with a group of friends. About half of us were people of color (POC). The play explores wealth, class, fear, and survival in 17th century London. An aristocratic couple (white) is preparing to flee their home when a lower-class sailor and a young girl (both white) appear and sneak into their boarded-up house. Now, quarantined together for 28 days—in two rooms, as the rest of the home has been quarantined off also—the only thing these strangers fear more than the plague is each other. The unfamiliar proximity of socially, emotionally, and physically disparate bodies threatens not only disease, but revolution. I read the play summery and giggled quietly realizing I automatically saw myself as the plague in this scenario—not a disease but the revolution. Having lived in a predominantly white state for 26 years I can tell you, in my experience, white people are more scared of what other white people think of them then they are of me, a woman of color.
As I watched my friends on stage telling a white story I had never seen before, which is rare, something very profound happened to me. Somewhere about halfway through the play, I started to have a compassion for white women I had never really had before that moment.
I watched as this white, privileged male character violently exuded his power over the lesser humans in the room: his wife (childless and deformed), a peculiar and morbid child (a stranger), and the untrustworthy sailor (a sexually exploited servant). Before this play I had only really ever seen white women as perpetrators in this game of deniable racism by way of intellectual liberal and republican accreditation. I grew up seeing them as gatekeepers for the continuation of minority suffering (my white female teachers, social workers, sports coaches, parents of my friends, primary care physicians, and so on) so they themselves where spared the rod of their husband’s or partner’s whim, or anger, or whatever. Privileged, liberal, white women and girls in Maine, for me, have always been the worst. If this play was reality on stage, then I could understand why they abused, oppressed and belittled lovely ray of sunshine, me. Why they used the little bit of power they had against me.
Here are the four things Maine taught me to be true about white people:
- White men are the authority, always, or else.
- Animals have more domain then female humans do.
- Brown, Black, Asian, Hispanic and Native women should shut up, always, because their crazy emotions just don’t work for white men, ever. Unless you want to be sexually deviant (this means so many things) behind closed doors.
- The Pilgrims wanted to separate from the church, and the Puritans wanted to purify the church. I actually learned this in public school, in Maine, along with the idea that the U.S. is at the center of a world map, and manifest destiny should be my guide when thinking about how to be a good citizen in this country.
If you take those four concepts and you keep using those four concepts for hundreds of years as a cultural standard you create an entire country of white people that cannot see themselves because nothing in their cultural makeup says that emotional value is important. Instead this white male-driven Puritan culture has taught white people that emotional capacity is weakness and/or ammunition (i.e. a weapon). It’s the only way whites truly know how to use it, if not incorporated into art or theory.
White people’s estrangement to themselves and their emotional capacity is not baffling when you do the research; when you look at the facts. I say all of this because, after 25 years of working, performing, and being overlooked in Maine’s Arts community, I am done. Done being tokenized by whites who need to feed off of my emotional abilities and strength. I am done taking jobs for free while you pay whites to do the same thing. I am done sitting down for a coffee date so white people can just “pick my brain.” I am done finding you POC performers. I am done building power for your white organizations and systems. I am done being strung along with promises of income and titles. I am done not being able to afford my rent or groceries while you buy property and cars and clothes and stuff. I am, from here on out, only building economic power for me. I am choosing to build power for us. Wakanda forever!
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17 thoughts on “I am done being your token, Maine”
Ok as a white male proofreader, allow me to point out another typo: you write “I read the play summery and giggled quietly…” I believe you meant “summary,” no? Your piece is very passionate and generally well-written, but that kind of error (and the others) just spoil it for me.
It’s a good thing I live in a country where I have the privilege to get better at this thing I did for the first time in my life, ever. Truth be told, I need an editor. If people like you, a white male proofreader, don’t allow everyone else that isn’t a you (a white male proofreader) to learn and grow and get better at being humans learning new things for the first time, then I am wasting all of my damn time. If you give up on me the very first time, your laziness and mediocre version of life become my judgement. Prove to me Michael Townsend, that you have a bigger heart than that, a bigger brain than that, a bigger cock than that.
Help me make the world not feel bad for everyone, not just white male proofreaders.
I absolutely love this and will be sharing your blog if you dont mind. I am a female in maine who has realized much of what you have, tho for me its because im irish in the French dominate part of the state but there are NO POC in my local 3 hour area your 1000 percent right and that is wrong. Hope to see more from you
You are a force – inside and out – coaxing or hurling humanity forward by whatever means necessary. There is SO much I want to say, but I will admit to lacking the emotional
fortitude to share it in public,….yet
Deborah! I look forward to spending so much time with you… we are so overdue!
Thank you for you support Carolyn.
Thank you for this piece. As a white woman I feel it was valuable to read and I will share it.
Korinthia, thank you for reading and sharing. I appreciate t very much.
Sorry for my typos
I loved this article. I learned how some people may see me, a white woman, that I didn’t know before. I appreciate the insight, and I feel knowing how you feel is somehow going to make me a better person because it is making me see life from a different perspective. Some people just see my skin color and judge me, so thank you for looking past that. You, too, gave been affected and geld back by judgement of you based on your skin color. I fully support you to not give uour talent away for free any more. For all womankind, I fully support you to hold out for what you’really worth, and I hope that you get it all! <3 Keep speaking out, your voice is important.
Thank you so much Viola. Also, thank you for some great new information. WOW!
This is an excellent piece! Loved it and will have to marinate on all it means.
Did want to point out a small typo: “If this play was realty on stage, then I could understand ” *reality?
Thank you D.A. Krolak. I appreciate your support and your look out. Thank you so much for the correction. I will get better at this with time, I am looking forward to it. Keep me on point, always!!
Nailed it when you write ” white male-driven Puritan culture has taught white people that emotional capacity is weakness and/or ammunition” . However Maine— south of the Kennebec River was begun as an Anglican colony; north of the Kennebec River by French Catholics. It was settled as well by those non- conformists who refused to go along with the Mass. Bay puritan mentality. But the Puritans got a strong hold here regardless and likewise its values are infused into the fabric of the culture of the United States.
Several other interesting statistics about the State of Maine–
…. the abuse rate of white woman by their “significant others” is the highest in the nation.
…. the rate of incest of while woman and girls, by their “significant others” usually a father or brother is as well the highest in the nation.
However both stats are under or non- reported by the local authority — because to do so, would make the local authority responsible for the care of the abused ! Hence why throw the abuser into prison ?
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